"This city is the nucleus of two important 20th-century events: World War II and Solidarity," says Kasper Teichman, a Polish-American currently living in Europe. Gdansk offers much to see besides history, too. "The main town was lovingly reconstructed after the war, and a walking tour gives you a notion of what it must have been like to walk down a busy European street in the 1600s."
Situated on the Baltic Sea, Gdansk has long been important in Poland's economic and political growth. The city thrived in medieval times, even hosting traveling Shakespearean plays during the 16th century. Plans are underway to rebuild that theater on its original site. Unfortunately, rebuilding is something the people of Gdansk know a lot about. The city, along with most of Poland, was destroyed in World War II.
Highlights on any visitor's trip should include a stroll down Long Street and Market Street, which together form the Royal Route. The Hall of the Main City is another must-see. Built between 1379 and 1492, the hall is more than 260 feet high. Nearby, St. Mary's Street is known as one of the city's most picturesque, partly because it's home to St. Mary's Church, the largest brick church in the world. Venturing into the church, you'll be treated to displays of Medieval and Baroque art.
The city is also known for its clean and well-maintained beaches. There is a 427-foot-long pier in Brzezno, which in the height of the summer season is is packed with sunbathers. Besides people-watching, it offers up sun and water recreation of all kinds.
Gdansk has a varied dining scene with options for all budgets, says Teichman. "If you're a street diner or a savvy shopper, you can duck into one of the tucked-away restaurants to enjoy a meal that will rarely be more expensive than $10. For the more discriminating diner, one can find delicious seafood restaurants plying the catch of the day in addition to expensive traditional Polish fare in Old Town."
Accommodations are also easy to find, and most are easy on the wallet. On the low end, several hostels have sprung up offering clean, safe rooms for about $10 a night. Double-occupancy rates for higher-end accommodations range from $40 to $275 a night.
Getting to Gdansk generally requires a transatlantic flight to Warsaw, then a short train ride. Summer flights from New York usually cost about $1,000 before taxes and fees, while in the late fall or winter prices drop to about $600.
For more information on planning a trip to Gdansk, visit the city's tourist website.